© Paulo Coelho. Maktub.

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     Paulo Coelho. Maktub
     Dedicated to Nha Chica
     "Maktub" means "It  is written." The Arabs feel that "It is written" is
not  really  a  good  translation,  because, although everything is  already
written, God is compassionate, and wrote it all down just to help us.
     The wanderer is in New York. He  has overslept an appointment, and when
he leaves his hotel, he  finds that his car has been towed by the police. He
arrives late for his appointment, the luncheon lasts  longer than necessary,
and  he is thinking  about  the  fine he will have to  pay.  It will  cost a
fortune. Suddenly, he remembers the dollar bill  he  found in the street the
day before. He sees  some kind of weird relationship between the dollar bill
and  what happened to him  that morning. "Who  knows, perhaps  I found  that
money before the  person who was supposed to find it had the chance? Maybe I
removed that  dollar bill from the path of someone who really needed it. Who
knows but what I interfered with what was written?" He feels the need to rid
himself of the dollar bill, and at that moment sees a beggar  sitting on the
sidewalk. He quickly  hands him  the bill, and feels  that he has restored a
kind of equilibrium to things. "Just a  minute," says  the  beggar. "I'm not
looking for a handout. I'm a poet, and I want to read you a poem in return."
"Well, make it a short one,  because I'm in a hurry," says the wanderer. The
beggar says, "If you are still living, it's because you have not yet arrived
at the place you should be."
     Think of the lizard.  It spends most of its life on the ground, envying
the birds and indignant at  its fate and its shape. "I  am the most disliked
of all  the creatures," it thinks. "Ugly, repulsive, and condemned to  crawl
along the ground." One day, though, Mother  Nature asks the lizard to make a
cocoon.  The lizard is  startled  -- it has never  made a  cocoon before. He
thinks that he is building  his tomb, and prepares to  die. Although unhappy
with the life he has  led up until then, he complains  to  God: "Just when I
finally became  accustomed to things,  Lord,  you  take away what  little  I
have." In desperation, he locks himself  into the cocoon and awaits the end.
Some days later,  he finds  that  he has been  transformed into a  beautiful
butterfly. He is able  to  fly to the sky, and he  is greatly admired. He is
surprised at the meaning of life and at God's designs.
     A stranger sought out the Father Superior at the monastery of Sceta. "I
want to make my life better," he said. "But I cannot keep myself from having
sinful thoughts."  The father noticed  that  the  wind  was  blowing briskly
outside, and said to the stranger: "It's quite  hot in here. I wonder if you
could seize a bit of that  wind outside and bring it here to cool the room."
"That's impossible,"  the stranger said.  "It  is also  impossible  to  keep
yourself from thinking of things that offend God," answered the  monk. "But,
if you know how to say no to temptation, they will cause you no harm."
     The master says: "If a  decision needs to be made, it is better to make
it  and deal with the consequences. You  cannot  know beforehand what  those
consequences will be.  The  arts of divination were  developed in  order  to
counsel people, never to  predict the future. They provide  good advice, but
poor prophecy. "In one  of the prayers that Jesus taught us, it says, 'God's
will be done.'  When His will causes a problem, it also presents a solution.
If the arts of  divination were able to predict the future, every soothsayer
would be wealthy, married and content."
     The  disciple  approached his master:  "For years  I have been  seeking
illumination," he said. "I feel  that  I am close to achieving it. I need to
know  what the  next  step is." "How  do you support yourself?"  the  master
asked. "I haven't yet learned how to support myself; my parents help me out.
But that is only a detail."  "Your next step is to  look directly at the sun
for  half a  minute,"  said the master. And the  disciple obeyed.  When  the
half-minute  was  over, the  master  asked  him to  describe  the field that
surrounded  them.  "I  can't  see it. The  sun has affected my  vision," the
disciple  said.  "A  man  who seeks  only  the  light,  while  shirking  his
responsibilities, will never find  illumination. And one  who  keep his eyes
fixed upon the sun ends up blind," was the master's comment.
     A man  was hiking through a valley in the Pyrenees, when he  met an old
shepherd. He  shared  his  food with him, and  they sat  together for a long
time,  talking about life. The man said  that, if one  believed  in God,  he
would also have to admit that he was not free, since  God would govern every
step. In  response, the shepherd led him to a ravine where one could hear --
with absolute clarity -- the  echo to any sound. "Life is these  walls,  and
fate  is the shout  that each  of us  makes," said the shepherd. "What we do
will be raised  to  His  heart, and will be returned to us in the same form.
"God acts as the echo of our own deeds."
     The master said: "When we sense that the time has come for a change, we
begin  -- unconsciously  --  to run  the tape again, to view every defeat we
have experienced until then. "And, of course, as  we  grow older, our number
of  difficult  moments  grows  larger.  But, at the  same  time,  experience
provides us with  better means of overcoming  those  defeats, and of finding
the path that  allows us to go forward. We have to play that  second tape on
our mental  VCR, too. "If we only watch the tape  of  our defeats, we become
paralyzed. If we only watch the tape  of our successes, we  wind up thinking
we are wiser than we really are. "We need both of those tapes."
     The disciple said to his master: "I have spent most of the day thinking
about things I should  not be thinking  about,  desiring things I should not
desire and making plans  I  should not be making."  The  master invited  the
disciple to take a  walk with him through the forest behind his house. Along
the way, he pointed to a plant, and asked the disciple if  he knew its name.
"Belladonna,"  said the  disciple. "It can kill anyone who eats its leaves."
"But  it  cannot  kill anyone  who simply  observes  it," said  the  master.
"Likewise, negative desires can  cause no  evil if you do not allow yourself
to be seduced by them."
     Between  France  and  Spain is  a  range of mountains. In one  of those
mountains, there  is a village  named Argeles,  and in the village is a hill
leading to the valley. Every afternoon,  an old  man climbs and descends the
hill. When the wanderer went to Argeles for the first time, he was not aware
of this. On his second visit, he noticed that he crossed paths with the same
man. And  every time he went to the village, he perceived the man in greater
detail -- his clothing, his beret, his cane, his glasses. Nowadays, whenever
he  thinks  about that village,  he  thinks of  the old man, as well -- even
though he is not aware that  this is true.  Only once did the wanderer  ever
speak to the man. In a joking fashion, he  asked the man, "Do you think that
God lives in these  beautiful mountains surrounding us?" "God  lives,"  said
the old man, "in those places where they allow Him to enter."
     The  master met one night with his disciples, and asked them to build a
campfire so they could sit and talk. "The spiritual path is like a fire that
burns before us," he  said.  "A man who  wants to light the fire has to bear
with the disagreeable smoke that makes it difficult  for him to breathe, and
brings  tears to his eyes. That  is how his faith is  rediscovered. However,
once the fire is rekindled, the smoke disappears,  and the flames illuminate
everything  around him  --  providing heat  and tranquility." "But  what  if
someone else lights the fire for him?" asked one  of the disciples.  "And if
someone helps us  to avoid the smoke?" "If someone does  that, he is a false
master.  A  master capable of taking the fire to wherever he desires, or  of
extinguishing it whenever he wants to do so. And, since he has taught no one
how to light the fire, he is likely to leave everyone in the darkness."
     "When  you strike out along your  path, you will  find a  door  with  a
phrase written upon it," says the master. "Come back to me, and tell me what
the  phrase says." The  disciple gives himself to the search, body and soul,
and one day comes upon the door, and  then returns to his master. "What  was
written there  was  'THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE,' he  says." "Was that written on  a
wall  or  on a  door?"  the master asks. "On  a door," the disciple answers.
"Well,  then,  put your  hand  on  the doorknob and  open it."  The disciple
obeyed. Since the phrase was painted with  the door, it gave way just as the
door itself did.  With the door completely open, he could no longer  see the
phrase -- and he went on.
     The master says: "Close your eyes. Or even with your eyes open, imagine
the following  scene: a flock of  birds  on the wing. Now, tell me  how many
birds you saw:  Five?  Eleven? Sixteen? Whatever the response -- and  it  is
difficult  for someone to say how many birds  were seen -- one thing becomes
quite clear in this  small experiment. You can imagine a flock of birds, but
the number of birds in the flock is beyond your control.  Yet the  scene was
clear, well-defined, exact. There must be an answer to the question. Who was
it  that determined how many birds should appear in  the imagined scene? Not
     A man  decided to  visit a hermit who, he had been  told, lived not far
from the monastery at Sceta. After wandering  aimlessly about the desert, he
finally found the monk. "I need to  know what is the  first step that should
be  taken  along the spiritual path," he said. The hermit took the  man to a
small well,  and told him  to  look at his reflection in  the water. The man
tried  to do so,  but as he made his attempt,  the hermit threw pebbles into
the  water, causing the surface to be disturbed. "I won't  be able to see my
face in the water if you keep  throwing those  pebbles," said the man. "Just
as    it    is    impossible    for    a   man   to   see   his    face   in